Rogue Domino’s employee posts YouTube video, creating a corporate nightmare

Two Domino’s Pizza employees in North Carolina posted a video on YouTube showing one of them preparing a sandwich order for a customer. The video shows one employee putting cheese in his nostril and waving meat under his backside before putting the ingredients on the sandwiches. Numerous major news and social media outlets around the world have covered the incident, including the New York Times and USA Today.

262953-resDomino’s knew about the video for nearly 48-hours before it responded with a proactive campaign that included a video message from the president, a Customer Care website page, public updates, and a Twitter1 account.

This was undoubtedly a difficult situation for Domino’s – a company cannot respond to every hoax (apparently the sandwich was never delivered to the customer). Sometimes over-reacting unnecessarily fans the flames. Executive management gambled that this incident would be contained in local media and likely monitored the situation to see if it would balloon. The “wait-and-see” mode can be okay if you have a rapid response plan ready to implement….it is a calculated risk.

I wasn’t behind-the-scenes so don’t want to judge harshly — the view is always great from the stands — but I wonder why small immediate steps were not taken to mitigate the situation before it escalated. Tools such as TweetScan alert you to “smoldering” issues before they become full-blown crises.

As a public-traded international company, any communication by Domino’s on an issue such as this gets viewed through two lenses: dealing with the immediate (tactical) situation and the longer term (strategic) impacts to sales and the stock price.

This crisis is a good reminder about the importance of paying attention to what is being said about your brand online. If your organization doesn’t have a solid crisis communications plan to roll-out that includes a rapid social media response to key scenarios, make it a priority to create one and make sure you update it regularly!

At the end of the day, this is a valuable case study for all communicators and I hope we hear more from Domino’s about the behind-the-scenes unfolding of the incident in the future. The silver lining: there is an opportunity for Domino’s to come out of this crisis with a stronger reputation than before the crisis started. But it will take time and money and it won’t be easy. Let’s wait and see what the next chapter entails for the company. – Maria Loscerbo

1 At the time of writing this entry, Domino’s had 44 followers and 801 following on Twitter.